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The kitchen – heart of the home

I love my kitchen.  I really, really do.  I especially love it on cold winter nights when J and I are in there cooking up a storm, creating tantalizing fragrances and communing with one another after a long day.  It makes me happy to provide my family nourishment, fulfilling some primal need inside me.  It’s warm and inviting.  Whenever we have guests, it seems we all end-up in the kitchen, even though it’s a bit on the small side.  That’s okay, though, because it really is where the heart of our home beats.

When we bought this house a little over a year ago, we decided that we wanted to keep our decorating and renovating within the spirit of the house.  It was built in 1956, although it has the mod feeling of the 60’s going on.  At some point, I’ll do a post on my theory behind this house’s design.  At the time, I didn’t really know anything about appropriate decor or colors for a home of this era, so I started poking around on the internet, which brought me to Retro Renovation.   This site is the Holy Grail of retro renovation, just as the name implies.  If you have a question about your mid-century home, you will find the answers you seek on this site, or find someone that can answer your question.

After we closed on our house, I had a small window of time in which to get some necessary painting done and the kitchen was first on my list, mainly because it looked like this:

You can’t tell from the pictures, but the white laminate cabinets were stained yellow from nicotine and the walls were that same chalky contractor white.  It was total yuck.  That brick wall, though, just set my heart aflutter.  Brick wall, you had me at “hello”.  I knew this kitchen had been remodeled at some point in its life, even though the realtor tried to tell me the counters and cabinets were original.  Uh, no.  Those suckers screamed eighties to me and it turned out I was right.  That’s fine, because the cabinets are real wood and the counters are still in good shape.  Plus, I don’t have money to gut the place just because of aesthetics. That’s not part of my motto.  Things don’t get replaced until they need to be replaced.  Until then, we work around these issues.  Plus, I kind of like the subtle leaf pattern that’s going on there on the countertops.

Those cabinets, though. I’m not that much of a purist, but don’t try to tell me those cabinets are 55 years old.  Plus, the nicotine stains were just ugh.  I couldn’t live with them as they were so I knew I needed to get my paint on.  That’s where Retro Renovation came into play.

Pam Kueber, the retro renovating goddess, has meticulously culled thousands of images from the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s into inspiration galleries for your viewing pleasure.  This is serious pornography, let me tell ya.  You can have your Busty Babes and Lusty Lips.  This stuff is hardcore.  It gets the pulse racing, the pupils dilated and salivary glands salivating.  Yes, my friends, this is the real deal.  This is where I found my inspiration:

Hello luscious orange and inspired green.  Immediately I knew I wanted these colors for my kitchen.  Luscious orange looks especially nice with that brick wall, no?  That’s how the whole thing started.

The first thing I did was go to Lowe’s and, naturally, check the mis-tint shelf.  I immediately found a full gallon of the perfect orange for $5.00.  It was marked “mis-tint” but the tag had the color as “Tropical Nut”.  I think this was more a case of buyers remorse, rather than being a mis-tint.  Either way, not only was it marked $5.00, but it was top of the line Valspar premium satin paint, so it didn’t matter to me why it was there.  I don’t always get that lucky, but sometime it’s just serendipitous and I know that paint was there waiting for me.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a good green for the walls on the shelf, so J matched an appropriate hue called “Cactus Shadow” and I bought a quart, which was a bad decision. (Yes, this was after measuring and talking to the paint guy.)  I should’ve bought a gallon because I ran-out and had to buy another quart.  Two quarts ended-up costing me $28.00 and, as you know, is only a half gallon.  I could have bought a whole gallon for the same price, so let that be a lesson to you, er, me.  Even so, $33.00 to paint my entire kitchen is not a bad deal and I still have some of both left for touch-ups.

I used a primer on the cabinets, which I already had.  I removed all the hardware and gave it a good soak in the sink to get the accumulated grease off.  They are wood, so I didn’t leave them soak too long.  After I cleaned them off, I used Old English on them to give them a nice shine and to spruce-up the stain.  At some point, I need to re-stain them, but I haven’t done that yet.  After the hardware was removed, and the cabinets primed, I painted the faces with the Tropical Nut.  I really thought about using a polyurethane top coat but in the year they’ve been painted, the finish has held-up well and I’m not sure it’s really necessary.  I have plenty of the paint left so I can touch-up small nicks and scratches.  I may still do a top coat at some point but it’s pretty low on my list of priorities since there are still rooms to be finished.

After that, I went looking for fabric that would not only tie-in the paint, but also very special wall-hanging that my mother-in-law had made for our last kitchen.  I asked her if she would take me to the Fabric Shack and she, of course, said yes.  I looked at their website and found a few different choices that I wanted to check-out.  They have an enormous selection of fabrics and if I’m looking for something specific, I find it helps to have a few choices in mind rather than going in there blindly which, to me, can be an overwhelming experience.

I ended-up going with this fabric for the valances over the big window.  My mother-in-law ended-up making these because she’s good like that.  In fact, she managed to stretch the fabric enough to make a valance for the back-door, as well.

I do not currently see this fabric on Fabric Shack’s website, so I’m not sure if it’s still available.  I believe it’s a Debbi Mumm fabric, if you go looking for it on the internet.

When I put it all together, it looked like this:

See those wooden panels above the counter?  There are six of them total.  We removed two of them to allow for light and a feeling of openness.  They can be repositioned in a variety of ways or removed altogether.  I really like the panels a lot, though, and think it’s a rather unique feature.

Here’s the wall-hanging.  Chef Guy (that’s what we call him because we’re so insanely clever) holds a special place in our hearts.  I wanted to make sure that we could incorporate him into the kitchen and I think he looks quite at home.  See that painting to the right of him?  K painted that for me one Mother’s Day and I will treasure that painting forever.  She gave it the title of “Mother”, which is so cute.  I really need to find a better spot for it, but that’s where it’s hanging-out for now.

K also made me this birdhouse in a pottery class a couple of years ago:

I love the leaf on top, although it didn’t escape the kiln completely unscathed.  That’s how life really is, though, so it’s all the more special to me.  I also liked the textures and patterns she made on the trunk of the birdhouse.  This piece inspired me and was something else that I really wanted to incorporate into the heart of my home.

I received these fantastic canisters as a house-warming present and they look like they were made for this kitchen.

Their happy orange mushrooms make me smile as I’m doing the dishes.    Plus, in another moment of serendipity, they match the random tiles I have going on in the backsplash.

Finally, my mother-in-law bought us these dishes from Tarjay as a house-warming present, as seen below on our prep table.  The colors are perfect for the kitchen and look so pretty.

Yes, this kitchen is warm and happy.  Like a puppy or a fluffy kitten.  Well, not like that exactly, but it makes you feel the same way on the inside, all warm and happy…  yeah.  No, it’s not an exact replica of a 1956 kitchen but it doesn’t scream “bad remodel” when you walk in, either.  I think it blends in with the essence of the house and reflects our personalities, which is what I was striving for.  Plus, as always, I did it all on a budget.


Paint                                                                                                                             $33.00

Initial Painting Supplies (which I’ve since re-used several times)                     $18.00

Fabric                                                                                                                            $6.98 yd. (I don’t think we used more than a yd.)

Total                                                                                                                               $57.98

Everything else I already had and used to decorate the kitchen.  The prep table came from our last house, although J bought it for my birthday, so I’m not sure if that really counts.  Overall, that’s not bad for taking our kitchen from this

to this.

So that’s my kitchen!  Please ignore the stained towel hanging from the oven handle and the white paint still showing in the cracks of the cabinet doors.  A year later and I still need to find a tiny paintbrush to fix that.  I’ve said it before, though, this is real life, baby!

P.S.  This was not a paid advertisement for any of the companies or products listed above.


About sugarshellandbutterknife

I am a work-at-home mother of two, daughter K who is 16 and son N who is 12. I live in a 1956 mid-mod ranch with my children and the love of my life, J. We're slowly renovating our house on a budget and love all things DIY. I hope to make this a place where frugal-minded folks like myself can exchange ideas, gain inspiration and find encouragement to tackle whatever life throws our way.

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: The master bedroom « sugarshellandbutterknife

  2. Pingback: Don’t Do Crack « sugarshellandbutterknife

  3. Pingback: The Kitchen is Still the Heart of our Home | sugarshellandbutterknife

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